Greenwich Riverside Old and New - an historical walk
On a glorious and sunny day, Jonathan Chandler and Jacky Robinson led members of the Society on a walk through history.
Here are some notes from Jonathan's first part of the walk
A huge debt of gratitude is owed to Dr Mary Mills for her research; without her published works it would not have been possible to tell as many stories - and particularly for The Greenwich Riverside - Upper Watergate to Angerstein: -
(click on the image to go to Amazon)
1. The O2
- The Millennium Dome is not a dome – although the supporting structure is – it’s a big top, a Millennium Tent.
- The architect was Richard Rogers and the contractor was a joint venture company, McAlpine & Laing.
- Built in 15 months, the dome structure was delivered under budget, at a cost of £43m.
- In plan view it is circular, 365 metres (one metre for each day in a standard year) in diameter. The canopy is 52 metres high in the middle – one metre for each week of the year and is made of durable and weather-resistant PTFE-coated (Polytetrafluoroethylene) glass fibre fabric panels (original plans to use PVC-coated polyester fabric were dropped after protest led by Greenpeace.
- 72 segment each with 2 panels
- Dome covers 48 acres and total including associated land was 170 acres.
- Highly political and attracted barely half of the 12 million customers its sponsors forecast, and so was deemed a failure by the press.
- 2005 report - the cost of the Dome was £28.7m and the value of the 48 acres occupied by the Dome was estimated at £48 million, which could have been realised by demolishing the structure, but it was considered preferable to preserve it.
- The critic Jonathan Meades scathingly referred to the Millennium Dome as a "Museum of Toxic Waste" and apart from the dome itself, the project included the reclamation of the entire Greenwich Peninsula. The land was previously derelict and contaminated by toxic sludge from East Greenwich Gas Works that operated here from 1889 to 1985 – more on this shortly. The clean-up operation was seen by the then Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine as an investment that would add a large area of useful land to the crowded capital.
- Publicly renamed as The O2 on 31 May 2005, in a £6 million-per-year deal with telecommunications company O2 plc, now a subsidiary of Telefónica Europe. This announcement, which presaged a major redevelopment of the site that retained little beyond the shell of the dome, gave publicity to the dome's transition into an entertainment district, including an indoor arena, undertaken by the dome's new owners, AEG the Anschutz Entertainment Group. It cost £600 million, and the resulting venue opened to the public on 24 June 2007, with a concert by rock band Bon Jovi. It is now often cited as the most popular music venue in the world.
2. DESIGN DISTRICT
- 2017 - eight leading architecture practices to each design a pair of buildings
- 50,000 sq. ft of permanent workspace for creatives in 16 buildings
- Clean and dirty workshops with specialist tools, Reliable Wi-Fi connection, 9 meeting rooms, 4 event venues, test kitchen, showers, bike storage, resource library, business services, cultural programme, photography studio, print bureau — low and high-end 3D printing, laser cutting and engraving, vinyl cutting, spray booth and introductory model making workshop facilities.
- 150 to 10,000 sq. ft workspaces - flexible tenancy agreements.
3. EAST GREENWICH GAS WORKS
- The East Greenwich Gas Works of the South Metropolitan Gas Company was the last gas works to be built in London, and the most modern. Originally manufacturing town gas from coal brought in by river and exporting coke and chemicals, the plant was adapted to produce gas from oil in the 1960s.
- Built between 1881 and 1886. Nothing remains.
- Before construction could begin many tons of clinker and heavy rubbish were dumped in order to build up the marshy ground. The gas works eventually occupied most of the east and centre of the peninsula, stretching for around 2k from Blackwall Point, southeast towards New Charlton and covering some 240 acres. The works took over the chemical works of Frank Hills at Phoenix Wharf on the east side of the peninsula, which already used tar and ammonia from existing gas works.
- The site had two very large gas holders. The second built, with six lifts and originally the largest in the world at 12,200,000 cubic feet (350,000 m3), was reduced to 8,900,000 cubic feet (250,000 m3) when it was damaged in the Silvertown explosion in 1917 but was still the largest in England until it was damaged again by a Provisional IRA bomb in 1978. It was later demolished. An extensive internal railway system carried coal from a large coaling pier to the rest of the plant.
- In the 1920s the Government Fuel Research Station next to the works began research into coal liquefaction in order to make petroleum. It also performed surveys of the properties of coal and is believed to have carried out chemical weapons research. This closed in 1958.
- In the early 1960s oil gasification plant was introduced, greatly increasing capacity. In 1965 the site produced around 400,000,000 cubic feet (11,000,000 m3) of gas, the largest in the world for a single site. After introduction of North Sea gas, production ceased in 1976. The gasification plant was mothballed for many years and eventually demolished.
- Initial decontamination was carried out by BAM Nuttall for British Gas, with the development being known as Port Greenwich. This included excavation to 15 metres to remove tar from the aquifer and driving a 100 metres diameter sheet pile ring into the London Clay. Around 120 tons of benzene and other hydrocarbons was removed from the soil.
4. RIVERSIDE ON OLYMPIAN WAY
Greenwich from Blackwall Reach © National Maritime Museum, London
- Like Greenwich itself, part of Kent until the late 19th century. It was also once known as Lea Ness as, at its northernmost – Blackwall Point – it is opposite the entry of the river Lea into the Thames.
- In medieval times Greenwich was part of the Manor of Old Court, with fields within it named The Pitts, Ballsopps, Goose Marsh and Cat’s Brains, but – after largely coming under Crown ownership by the 16th century, fell under the control of the Court of Sewers from 1625 onwards, when drainage of the marshes started and when 4 sluices around the peninsula drained into the river.
- Initially poor land of reed beds and willow, it was a place of eel traps, wild fowling and some grazing. Greenwich became the main port for fish sent to the London markets – and all by river because there were no roads until the 20th century. The wharves became increasingly important as time went by.
- There was little building on the marsh until, first the Gunpowder depot was built and then Morden College housing was constructed in the south – and around the Pilot, about which more later!
- Morden College was one of a number of charities with interests in the land – Bokeman, Trinity Hospital, The Poor of Farningham and Hatcliffe’s Charity (still has alms-houses in Tuskar Street).
- The peninsula was, from this time, never natural land, but agricultural and then industrial real estate worked largely for the benefit of those who didn’t live here!
- Early references to Bugsby’s Reach – and Bugsby’s Hole (one of which we’ll come to later) – may not refer to someone of that name. There’s precious little evidence of anyone of any local importance called Bugsby, but there is some suggestion that it originated with as Bug’s Marsh – referring to ghostly spirits – and that the name became ‘gentrified’ with changing times.
- In the 19th century the river was so silted-up for lack of dredging, that ships above a certain size could only move a couple of hours before High Water, so they had to come up-river in stages.
- The adjacent peninsula that we know as the Isle of Dogs, had as part of its sea wall (note sea not river because of the influence of the tide), Blackwall on the East side and Millwall (with its windmills) on the West.
The Pilot & Tide Mill
- It would be a shame to walk on without taking at least some note of one important location just a little south of where we are standing and note the history of the area around “The Pilot” and the houses on Ceylon Place (built between 1801 and 1804).
- A plaque on the pub refers to New East Greenwich and this small community was the first established permanent group of residents on the whole of the peninsula.
- This land – one of the plots sold by Morden College – was owned at the turn of the 19th century by George Russell, a successful soap manufacturer. At one point, some of the land was leased to a group of 4 politicians including William Pitt & George Canning for a project about which very little is known and very little happened – the London Flour Company - and it was Canning who penned verses to a song about Pitt in 1802 lauding his part in the treaty of Amiens (within which Great Britain gained Ceylon).
“When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?
No – here’s to the pilot that weathered the storm!”
- Although nothing came of the London Flour Company, the riverside there was the location for a major building – a Tide Mill – and George Russell, as history records, did become a miller. We need to remember that mills weren't just about corn - they were about every possible industrial process that needed grinding or something similar - and tide mills tended to deal with the heavier stuff.
- While the mill was still being constructed, Olinthus Gregory walked down the river wall from Woolwich to have a look at it. Gregory was a mathematics master at the Royal Military Academy. Interested in mill machinery he wrote a definitive work 'A Treatise on Mechanics' in which the East Greenwich Mill features prominently and it’s still important in Greenwich history in that it represents what must be the first developer on the Peninsula - a subject we are now all very familiar with.
- It is also the site where Richard Trevithick's career as an innovative steam engine builder took a nosedive on 4th September in 1803 – the fire to heat it was in direct contact with the cast iron boiler. It overheated and some joints burnt out. However, it was kept working and on the following Thursday 8th September it was left in the care of an apprentice. He was called away to catch some eels (swimming under the foundations of the building) and left the steam lever – which vented wasted steam – fastened down by wedging a piece of timber at the top of the safety valve. A labourer noticed that the engine was running to fast and shut it down but didn’t notice the jammed safety valve and the result was inevitable and fatal. One chunk of the boiler – an inch thick – was thrown over 100 yards into the air and bricks were thrown – “200 of them in a great circle and no two together”. Three men were killed instantly and three more injured (one deaf, one scalded by boiling water who died at St Thomas’ later). Newspapers were quick to report the accident and, some suspicious competitors of Trevithick, boosted the stories and, although he modified his designs and added more safety features, it was a major blow to Trevithick’s career. He ended his days – after working for Hall’s – in Dartford where he is buried and where a Trevithick day is held every year (much to the chagrin of the Cornish).
A little further along - Quantum Cloud
- 1999 by Anthony Gormley – 30metres and taller than the Angel of the North
- It is constructed from a collection of tetrahedral units made from 1.5 m long sections of steel. The steel sections were arranged using a computer model with a random walk algorithm starting from points on the surface of an enlarged figure based on Gormley's body that forms a residual outline at the centre of the sculpture.
- The idea for Quantum Cloud came from Basil Hiley's thoughts on pre-space as a mathematical structure underlying space-time and matter.
- Single last remains of the East Greenwich Gas Works – the statue’s base!
5. LOOKING ACROSS THE RIVER TO TRINITY BUOY WHARF
- The site of a lighthouse by the confluence of the Thames and Bow Creek on the Leamouth Peninsula.
- In 1803, the site began to be used by the Elder Brethren of Trinity House, now known as Corporation of Trinity House and formally as The Master, Wardens and Assistants of the Guild Fraternity or Brotherhood of the most glorious and undivided Trinity and of St Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond in the County of Kent.
- The corporation was founded in 1514. Its first master was Thomas Spert (later Sir), sailing master of Henry VIII's flagship Mary Rose
- It is the official authority for lighthouses in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. Trinity House is also responsible for the provision and maintenance of other navigational aids, such as lightvessels, buoys, and maritime radio/satellite communication systems. It is also an official deep sea pilotage authority, providing expert navigators for ships trading in Northern European waters. Trinity House is also a maritime charity, disbursing funds for the welfare of retired seamen, the training of young cadets and the promotion of safety at sea.
- Funding for the work of the lighthouse service comes from "light dues" levied on commercial vessels calling at ports in the British Isles, based on the net registered tonnage of the vessel.
- The original lighthouse was built by the engineer of Trinity House, James Walker, in 1852, and was demolished in the late 1920s. A second lighthouse, which survives, was built in 1864 for Trinity House. It was used to test lighting systems for lights around England and Wales. Michael Faraday carried out experiments there. Both lighthouses were also used for training prospective lighthouse keepers.
- Michael Faraday FRS (22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was an English scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis. Faraday was an excellent experimentalist who conveyed his ideas in clear and simple language; his mathematical abilities, however, did not extend as far as trigonometry and were limited to the simplest algebra. James Clerk Maxwell took the work of Faraday and others and summarized it in a set of equations which is accepted as the basis of all modern theories of electromagnetic phenomena. Albert Einstein kept a picture of Faraday on his study wall and Physicist Ernest Rutherford stated, "When we consider the magnitude and extent of his discoveries and their influence on the progress of science and of industry, there is no honour too great to pay to the memory of Faraday, one of the greatest scientific discoverers of all time.”
- In December 1988, Trinity House closed the wharf, and the area was acquired by the London Docklands Development Corporation. The site has been, and continues to be, developed as "a centre for the arts and cultural activities". Enhancements include studio space (including unusual architecture based on used shipping containers) and exhibition space. One season of The Great British Sewing Bee.
- The wharf is also the home of Thames Clippers who have offices and base all their boats on the pier there.
- In past times petroleum was yet to be available as a fuel, and plastic still to be invented. Oil derived from whale blubber, and materials created from whale bone, were used instead. Sailing ships were sent out into the Atlantic to bring back the mammals for processing.
- In the 16th century whaling ships sailed from several British ports. The first London ships to attempt whaling were those of the Muscovy (or Russia) Company, which was founded in 1555 for trading with Russia. Their yard on the Thames was at Blackwall. From 1575 their whaling activities were focussed around Bear Island in the Barents Sea between Spitsbergen and Norway where they had success catching walruses.
- During the early period, the mammals’ bodies were cut into large pieces on the decks of the ships at sea and then processed at temporary facilities on the shore. If far from the shore, processing was undertaken on the ship itself, which was a very messy and unpleasant business. One ton of blubber produced about 150 gallons of oil. Casks of oil and bundles of whalebone were brought back to the Muscovy Company’s yard at Blackwall. Seals, walruses, narwhals and bears were also brought back in addition to whales.
- Following the ‘South Sea Bubble’ fiasco in 1720, the South Sea Company was persuaded they could profit from the whaling trade in the Arctic. They commissioned twelve new ships to be built, probably at Blackwall and Rotherhithe, and a further twelve for the following season.
- The South Sea Company’s vessels were based at the ten-acre Howland Wet Dock at Rotherhithe. It had originally opened in 1700 for the safe laying up and repairing of ships, particularly those of the East India Company. During the 1740s the dock gradually became known as the Greenland Dock, the name it still retains today. The South Sea Company constructed coppers for the boiling of blubber to produce oil in a building on the south side of the dock. The building also had tanks for the storage of oil and cellars for baleen.
- For about a hundred years, from the early 18th century, London was a leading whaling port. Perhaps ten thousand whales and very large numbers of seals were killed and brought back to London during that time.
British artist Gary Hume (b.1962) modelled this sculpture in three separate sections, each based on the arm of a store mannequin. The result is a sculpture of the human form caught between representation and abstraction.
6. BLACKWALL POINT – looking across the river
Virginia Settler’s Memorial
- Unveiled in 1928 on the wall of Brunswick House which formerly stood about 100 yards to the west of this point. In 1999 Barratt Homes Limited reinstated this monument and commissioned the mariner’s astrolabe by Wendy Taylor.
From near this spot, December 19 1606, sailed with 105 “adventurers”:
The “Susan Constant” 100 tons. Capt. Christopher Newport in supreme command;
The “Godspeed” 40 tons. Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold;
The “Discovery” 20 tons. Capt. John Ratcliffe.Landed at Cape Henry, Virginia April 26 1607.
Arrived at Jamestown Virginia May 13 1607 where these “adventurers” founded the first permanent English colony in America under the leadership of the intrepid Capt. John Smith, Edward Maria Wingfield President of the Council, the Reverend Robert Hunt and others.
At Jamestown July 30 1619, was convened the first representative assembly in America.
Erected by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities in 1928 in commemoration.
- This voyage took place 16 years before the Mayflower.
- The wharf was known as Brunswick Wharf, a plaque was originally erected on the westernmost pier of Brunswick Buildings (formerly the Railway Tavern) and at this time, the Dockmaster's House. In 1947, following Blitz damage, that was demolished and the quay modified. The plaque was kept forming part of a large monument, erected by the Port of London Authority, in the form of a pile of stones from the old quay, with a bronze mermaid on top, but this monument was left neglected and vandalised, and the mermaid stolen.
A little further along - A Slice of Reality
Richard Wilson - It consists of a 9-metre (30 ft) sliced vertical section through the former 800-ton 60-metre (200 ft) sand dredger Arco Trent and exposes portions of the former living quarters of the vessel to the elements.
7. ORDNANCE WHARF
- In the 1860’s big companies and big industry moved onto the Peninsula, shipbuilders, steel works and then big guns. Henry Bessemer, owner of steel works, became steel supplier to Alexander Theophilus Blakely a patent holder and significant British gun designer – both had been turned down by the military establishment and the Woolwich Arsenal.
- In 1865 Morden College gave Blakely permission to build a wharf and Blakely’s guns are well known in America – including one that fired the opening salvo of the American Civil War at Fort Sumpter in 1861. One of the company’s trustees to who he supplied guns was Thomas Baring (of the bank) and a supporter of the Confederates.
- Dry dock location – see map - 400 feet long and operated in the 1870s
The Green Jetty
In 2000 the pier at Ordnance Wharf was converted into a ‘green jetty’ or nature platform. Turf was laid and native species planted to encourage wildlife. As the pier is not publicly accessible it provides a safe haven for nesting birds including Caspian gulls.
A little further along - Here
London-based artists Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead originally conceived "Here" in 2011 as a virtual image for The Mini Museum of XXI Century Arts, an online digital media platform. The concept was to mark the distance of the work from itself along a North/South axis. The physical sculpture, fabricated to UK road standards two years later, marks the 24,859-mile distance around the earth and back. The current placement of this sculpture is particularly relevant in its current location on the Greenwich Meridian, which is located at 0 degrees longitude.
This was built by the gas works on the order of the House of Lords as compensation to Watermen who had lost access to the riverside. Blackwall tunnel (with foot access nearby) was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1897 after a banquet IN the tunnel. 2 nights later, two local gangs – the Poplar Boys and the Greenwich boys met in the tunnel to “sort a few things out”. The tunnel was built for pedestrians and horse traffic.
8. BESIDE THE GOLF DRIVING RANGE
Note the event venue name – MAGAZINE!
A Bullet from a Shooting Star
Commissioned by Greenwich Peninsula as part of the London Design Festival,â€¯A Bullet from a Shooting Star is an ambitious outdoor sculpture by British artist Alex Chinneck (b.1984). The work takes the form of an upside-down electricity pylon, balancing on its tip, leaning at a precarious angle as though shot to earth from the sky. At 35 metres tall, the structure is composed of 466 pieces of steel with a combined length of 1,186 metres. Over 1,000 engineered connection points and 25-metre-deep foundations have been used to anchor the 15-tonne structure
Augustus Edmunds – barge building from 1876 then Humphreys & Grey for lighterage – using a fleet of lighters and tugs but also building two large boats. The it was Shrubsall’s Barge Builders from 1900 – 1943 and after, Thomas Hughan, who built several cruise vessels and pleasure craft.
Pirate Hanged at Execution Dock © National Maritime Museum, London
- Greenwich Peninsula was once notorious as a place to see hanged pirates. In the 18th century, convicted pirates were hung at Execution Dock, Wapping. Their bodies were then often displayed in prominent locations along the Thames in the hopes they would be seen by crews entering and leaving port and act as a deterrent.
- Bugsby’s Hole on the west of the Peninsula was a popular site for display, and Pirate Williams was gibbeted here in 1735. These displays proved quite a popular attraction, and for one penny, locals could view the body.
- The earliest reference to the name of ‘Bugsby’s Hole’ seems to be a report in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' of March 1735 to 'Williams the pirate' being hung in chains at Bugsby's Hole'. Williams was dead when he arrived here to be gibbetted – have died by hanging with due ceremony at Execution Dock. He had been convicted at a specially convened Admiralty Court for “running away with the ship Buxton Snow, late Captain Beard, bound from Bristol to the Island of Malemba Angola in Africa, and selling the Ship; and also the Murder of the said Captain Beard, by cutting his Throat with an Axe”.
- One illustration was originally thought to depict the pirate Captain Kidd hanging from a gibbet in an iron cage. However, Kidd’s body was hung up at Tilbury Point, near Gravesend and this scene features the mast house of the Blackwall shipyard.
Captain Kidd's body (?)© National Maritime Museum, London
Where the river broke through the sea wall so completely that, when rebuilding, the wall just followed the new shore-line
Sir John Morden’s charity worked for the benefit of Turkey Company merchants and he stipulated that control should, if necessary, then pass to the East India Company, then to the Court of Aldermen of the City of London and – should that also fail - then on to “7 discreet and grave men of Kent”.
The Palace on the river had been a place of arms manufacture since Tudor times – at the tiltyard until it moved to Woolwich Arsenal. Between the 2 dockyards – Deptford and Woolwich, Greenwich was ideally situated for a gunpowder store, created in 1694 by two government officials – near to Enderby House and beside one of the marsh sluices. By the 1750s thousands of barrels of explosives were passing through Greenwich every year. Locals regarded it as dangerous, however, with petitions for its removal in 1718 and 1750. It was eventually moved to Purfleet in 1768.
9. ENDERBY WHARF
- An important London company in the story of south sea whaling is Enderby & Sons, famous enough that they are mentioned in the 1851 novel Moby Dick, written by the American writer Herman Melville. Part of Melville’s story features the London whaling ship Samuel Enderby. In some years the Enderbys had more than twenty ships at sea, probably all owned by the company, an investment equivalent to millions of pounds in modern values.
- The association with whaling in the Enderby dynasty began with Samuel Enderby (1719-1797). He came from a reasonably wealthy family but began his career as a cooper, a maker of barrels. That led to trading in whale oil. From the 1760s his business was located at Paul’s Wharf near London Bridge. In 1769 the area was destroyed by fire when Enderby’s premises caught alight, including two enormous tanks and two lighters on the river laden with oil. After rebuilding, Paul’s Wharf continued as the Enderby headquarters.
- By the time of the fire Enderby was already part-owner of a Greenland whaling-ship. He also established links with American oil merchants and was importing spermaceti oil from Nantucket to London, which led to operating his own whaling ships from Rhode Island in New England.
- In 1775 the government extended the bounty to whales caught in the south seas. The loss of the British market after American independence the following year caused great hardship to the whalers of New England and some of them, particularly from Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, came to London. Enderby moved his fleet of ten ships, wholly or partly owned, from New England to London and perhaps the whalers of Nantucket came with them. From then, encouraged by Lord Sandwich at the Admiralty, Enderby formed a Southern whaling fleet, hunting in what was then known as the ‘South Sea whale fishery’ or simply the ‘southern fishery’.
- The government increased the bounty to £2 a ton in 1781. London whaling expeditions to the Arctic reached a peak of 105 vessels during the 1787 season, returning with over 250 whales and over 8,000 seals from around Greenland and the Davis Straits. In 1798 one ship returned with 36 whales.
- The Enderby whaling business was continued by Samuel’s son and grandsons. As whale stocks were depleted in the Southern Atlantic, they extended their territory to the Pacific and Indian Ocean, with voyages that took between two to four years. To do so it was necessary for them to challenge the monopoly of the East India Company to trade on the region. To maximise profits of such long voyages, in 1791 Enderby’s ships carried convicts to Australia on the outward journey. There was a temporary setback in 1812 when 12 whalers of the Pacific fleet were captured off Cape Horn by the American navy but from 1819 the Enderbys were whaling around Japan. In 1831 part of Antarctica was mapped by one of their ships and is still known as Enderby Land.
The 'samuel Enderby', A Whaling Ship is a drawing by Illustrated London News Ltd
- Rope walks are essential for shipping. There was a huge one in Woolwich, the first in the country, set up by Elizabeth 1 and they weren’t mechanised at first, of course – the workers literally walked the rope, backwards, with about 40lbs of fibres around their waists which they twisted with their fingers to make ropes, each person walking about 20 miles a day doing so. In 1800 one was set up in Greenwich – by John Houston, who had been the Clerk at Woolwich. The ropeworks were purchased by the Enderby brothers – Charles, George and Henry – grandsons of Samuel in 1830.
- The Samuel Enderby used an experimental rot proofing – Kyan’s (extremely poisonous) sublimate solution – more usually employed to treat syphilis – showing their openness to new chemistry and in 1837 they were asked to help develop insulated cables for the telegraph. However, in 1845 a devastating fire put an end to the brothers’ rope making business – but not before work had started on building Enderby House for Charles.
- In the 1840s Charles Enderby planned to revive British southern whaling by using the Auckland Islands, south of New Zealand, as a base for the whaling ships and using other ships to transport the oil back to London. The islands had been claimed for Britain by an Enderby ship in 1809 and Queen Victoria granted the Enderbys a lease on them. In 1849 the Southern Whale Fishery Company was floated at the London Tavern at Bishopsgate. Charles settled on the islands that year with 200 colonists. No whales were found, however, and the climate proved to be harsh. Charles returned to Britain and the company was wound up in 1854. It was the end of the Enderby business and Charles died in poverty in 1876.
- The global revolution in communications started here with the work on the Atlantic Telegraph and attempts started to lay a cable across the Atlantic to connect Britain and America – a commercial venture requiring new and complex technology and a lot of money – the first 2 failed. The British government had even lent warships to assist the first effort, but the cable broke after 280 miles and grappling techniques weren’t good enough to retrieve the cables. The 2nd attempt was successful, but it broke and failed shortly after.
- Brunel’s vilified “Great Eastern” (originally The Leviathan) was pressed into service 7 years after its launch from a landing still visible beside Burrell’s Wharf on the north bank, after failing as a passenger liner. Whatever criticism has been levelled at the ship, it was actually an extraordinary success for the telegraph – without it the Atlantic cable could not have been laid when it was. It was, however, too big to come onto Enderby Wharf and barges had to be used to carry the cables out to her at Sheerness.
- The first attempt with the Great Eastern failed, the cable breaking just short of Newfoundland and despite four attempts to grapple it from the sea floor and they came back to Greenwich. A new cable was finished in 1866 and on 27th July that year the cable was laid. They even went back and managed to find and reconnect the broken 2nd cable. It’s hard to overstate the importance of that step in global communication and it started here!
Enderby Wharf 1946
Jacky takes over from Ballast Quay